by Shea Hennum
The second collection of Giannis Milonogiannis’s webcomic Old City Blues is both the best example of the artist’s cartooning and the work that best shows off his influences. This volume, which includes the stories “Private Enemy” and “Prosthetic Corpus,” is in a slightly smaller format than the first. It’s a paperback, with dimensions closer to the manga tankōbon. The idea, according to Milonogiannis, is for the physical format of OCB to reflect the format of all the manga that clearly influenced not only this series, but Milonogiannis’s unique rendering style, which we’ve also seen in Prophet.
And that idea of showing off your influences finds its way into both “Private Enemy” and “Prosthetic Corpus.” The denouement of the former reads as riff on a recurring idea of a lot of Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga, and there are a couple narrative elements of “Prosthetic Corpus” that remind me of scenes from Shirow Masamune’s Appleseed. The whole thing feels very reminiscent of older cyberpunk stuff we’ve seen before. But I like the way Milonogiannis is able to recall and toy around with elements of cyberpunk work and stitch it together into this really exciting thing. It gives the book that uncanny feeling, at once familiar and new. It makes the story accessible but keeps it from feeling stale or like it’s old hat. For example, the climax of “Prosthetic Corpus” feels very much like the final boss fight of a Metal Gear Solid game, but Milonogiannis stitches it onto details of the OCB universe and fits the feeling of that set piece onto this new work. He’s able to manipulate that patina of familiarity and deliver something new, something exciting and engaging.
And in the stories that make up the latest volume, the artist does an excellent job of fleshing out the world of New Athens and of exploring economic and politic components of the world. It’s nice to see Milonogiannis expanding his world, and toying around with the scope of his work. OCB 2 definitely feels bigger than the first volume, and between OCB1 and the latest book there is demonstrable growth. The quality of Milonogiannis’s cartooning in OCB2 can be seen in the Initial D-influenced car chase in “Private Enemy.”
This sequence is important because it so perfectly demonstrates Milonogiannis’s handle on action. Here, the detective Solano is coming off the page, and the vehicles are stretching at the edges of the panel. They’re literally trying to escape they’re artistic confines. Loading the page with a higher-than-average panel count and reducing the size of the gutter creates a palpable sense of urgency. It gives everything a heightened dynamism, action, and movement. ey’Speed and motion is something that a lot of cartoonists have difficulty with, but Milonogiannis makes it look easy (which probably means that it was hard). His command of action carries over to Solano’s hand-to-hand fights in “Prosthetic Corpus,” where Milonogiannis demonstrates a good sense of imposition and scale, with the Shirow Masamune and Tsutomu Nihei influences coming across clearly.
Milonogiannis’s compositional choices work to create a brisk reading experience. There’s a very Japanese “info-dump” quality to the dialogue and exposition, but the page never feels bogged down. It’s something that a lot of other cartoonists might to be able to do, but Milonogiannis manipulates the pacing of his stories, and composition of the action sequences, really well. And all of this keeps the story from getting too weighty.
Read Old City Blues and other works by Giannis Milonogiannis: